Hindsight, Insight, and Foresight

Learning from experience (hindsight), self-awareness and honest perception (insight), and intentions informed by prior knowledge (foresight) are some of the most important assets we possess.

Ideally, we use our hindsight to inform our present day insights and help us to have good foresight as we’re making choices for the future. Wow, that is a mouthful! Let’s examine each of these “sights” and how they serve us.

Hindsight comes from reflection about past decisions or experiences. Employing this represents a strength. However, hindsight should not be used to beat yourself over the head for mistakes. That is never helpful, whether we’re the ones doing it or someone else. The way humans learn is through trial and error. We learned to walk by taking those first steps in which we fell over because we lost our balance. But if we never tried, we’d still be crawling! The same is true of anything else. “We can’t know what we don’t know”; see past errors as opportunities for learning and advancement in your insight.

A common saying is “Hindsight is 20/20”. Well, maybe. It can be but it depends upon our thought process, and the insights we draw from our past experiences. Having good friends or family who can help us self-examine as well as look at others’ behavior toward us contributes to drawing accurate insights. We’ve probably all known people who make assumptions about others without evidence and act on them. Faulty assumptions don’t lend themselves to accurate   hindsight. So hindsight does depend upon insight.

Insight, according to the Encarta Dictionary, is defined as “the ability to see clearly and intuitively into the nature of a complex person, situation, or subject” and “a clear perception of something”. Obviously, our ability to have insight depends upon our ability to perceive, understand, and discern what is happening. These depend upon our self-awareness and awareness of others.

The following aids our awareness:

  1. Having a strong sense of self and feeling good about ourselves provides an important foundation.
  2. A secure feeling about ourselves helps us to be honest about our behavior and our motivations. If we see making a mistake as cause for shame, that is a powerful preventive for self-awareness and accurate insight.
  3. Not believing everything we think is crucial. It’s important to know that our minds are “thinking machines” and are highly subjective. Just because we think something, doesn’t make it true. Self-awareness includes being able to catch ourselves with our prejudices and insecurities.
  4. Having a capacity for empathy and understanding of others helps us to have insight into their behavior. We can have empathy and compassion without agreeing with them.
  5. Taking time for reflection in whatever form is best for us helps in slowing down and sorting through events and feelings. When we have strong emotions about something, it’s especially important to slow down and ask ourselves questions about what is behind them.

Our foresight is a natural outcome from our insights. Picking ourselves up and learning from the past assists in not repeating things that don’t work. When we are able to examine ourselves and others honestly, then we can use that information to inform our future choices. We can anticipate problems and intuit possibilities more clearly.

I think it’s helpful to stop labeling past choices as mistakes, but instead see them as learning opportunities. Life is a process; seeing it as one that is constantly graded hampers us.

Having this type of attitude toward life assists us in setting our goals high, holding ourselves accountable for falling short, and learning our lessons.  We know we’ll never be perfect, but success lies in our honest attempts.



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